Behind the Music: Edison Phonograph Spools

Over the next several weeks, we will be discussing the various music mediums used throughout history. I’ll be discussing the Edison phonograph wax cylinder.

There were early prototypes of the phonographs around 1857; however, Thomas Edison is credited to inventing the phonograph in 1877 (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010). His phonograph used various materials such as paraffin paper, tin foil, and different types of wax (i.e. – ceresin, beeswax, stearic, and “brown”). On October 8, 1887, the Edison Phonograph Company was created in order to promote his phonograph machine and wax cylinders (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).

For the next decade, Edison lost his rights for the photograph to Jesse H. Lippincott; moreover, Edison created another company, the Edison Factory, created “talking dolls” (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017). In 1890, Lippincott became ill and lost his power to his phonograph companies; nonetheless, Edison gained control of his rights to the phonograph, due to bankruptcy, in 1894 (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).  In 1891, mass production began of the wax cylinders and remained popular until 1929, when they abandoned making wax cylinders and produced disc phonographs (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).


The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2010, April 20). Phonograph (Instrument). Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

History of the Cylinder Phonograph – Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies. (2017). Retrieved January 16, 2017, from